Where Is New Zealand Headed?
Over the past few years the New Zealand public have been brainwashed to think that our food production needs radical change. This has been focused on Green House Gas emissions, water quality, and biodiversity. It’s time to put the record straight.
Over half of this country is in trees, mountains, natural cover. ALL types of farming combined, only cover 39% of our total land area.
Current Land Use in New Zealand
|Land Use||Land Area|
|Urban & Lifestyle blocks||6%|
|Sheep & Beef farms||30%|
|Doc Estate National Parks||48%|
“The Environment” has become a religion for some people. Lobby groups get their funding from the public and to get attention (and therefore attract funding) they often use statistics which, whilst not being untrue, their selective use creates anxiety amongst the general population. This level of anxiety usually has more detrimental effect on the lower socio-economic sector of the population as they have very little opportunity or means to combat the perceived effects on the environment.
As an example the Green Party (probably the country’s largest environmental lobby group) gets most of its votes (and probably funding) from wealthy electorates where the people have the most GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (driving and flying). The wealthy Green Party benefactors and others can then ease their consciences by contributing funding for environmental lobbying whilst still maintaining the same lifestyle.
New Zealand has clean freshwater and in fact is listed as one of seven nations with the cleanest water in the world yet a large number of Auckland beaches are un-swimmable some of the time. The beaches are not swimmable due to contamination from sewerage. There are problems with the drainage system whereby untreated sewerage is allowed to flow through the stormwater system every time there is a heavy rainfall.
Double standards apply: cities escape severe fines for breaches of sewage and stormwater regulations, but farming is getting hammered in relation to water quality.
When you look at the Emissions Trading Scheme and take into account that agriculture is going to be included into this, you can again see the double standards being applied.
Plantation and native forestry is given credits for carbon sequestration yet farming is given no recognition for any level of carbon sequestration outside of forestry plantations. This, even though the Ministry for the Environment has admitted that there is at least a 33% level of carbon sequestration from on farm vegetation.
The Auckland University of Technology has just released a report commissioned by Beef and Lamb NZ, that estimated woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms may be offsetting 63 to 118 per cent of the gross agricultural emissions from this sector (Case and Ryan, 2020).
In contrast, the findings of the recent report prepared by the Ministry for the Environment indicated net carbon dioxide removals are 63 per cent lower than the midpoint estimate of the Auckland University of Technology report by (Case and Ryan, 2020), equivalent to 33 per cent of the on-farm agricultural emissions.
This MfE report claims to provide a robust and up-to-date estimate of net carbon dioxide removals occurring on sheep and beef farmland, but this admission still does not take into account any level of sequestration from grass pasture.
At their peak, livestock were grazed over approximately 60% of New Zealand’s land area but that’s down to about 37% now. Large areas have reverted to scrub and native bush, and many hectares have been retired by DOC or donated by farmers under QE2 covenants.
There has been much talk about the GHG emissions from farming and the detrimental effects of methane emissions on the environment but in most discussions the fact that methane is a short lived gas which has less effect on the environment than CO2 (a long lived gas) is ignored.
This discussion fails to recognise the natural carbon cycle. The method of assessing the levels of methane from ruminants is flawed with assumptions based on figures that are officially + or – 50%. The Paris Agreement said to exclude food production.
It is economic madness for us to limit the sector leading the recovery, based on flawed assumptions.
When people look at farming they think of greenhouse gas emissions yet farming systems are actually sequestering carbon, yet the carbon sequestration is totally ignored when discussing emissions from farming.
It is only fair that if the discussions are to be held around the detrimental effects of farming on the environment, then the beneficial effects should also be part of the discussion to reflect the reality of the situation and bring some much needed balance to the discussions.
The Paris Accord has a goal of stabilising GHG emissions in a way that does not reduce food production. New Zealand agriculture has complied with those requirements since 1990. New Zealand is squandering its land resource, with no planning around food security for a population which is increasing by two percent per year.
The world needs agriculture in all its different forms to ensure that people can be fed so any discussion should be based on science and include all of the relevant information that gives a realistic starting point when discussing rules around agriculture.
Unlike the current situation where the beneficial effects of agriculture have been totally removed from the discussion and there is no balance.
The failure to include the beneficial effects, (from carbon sequestration through to security of food supply) highlights the inequity in the current discussions where agriculture is being unfairly portrayed as a destroyer of the natural environment, when in actual fact it is no worse or better than other parts of society as we see it today.
Farming is currently being asked to lower its carbon footprint to comply with New Zealand’s Paris agreement requirements when in fact if the true picture is used which includes the total carbon sequestration from all forms of on farm vegetation, then the farming industry will be seen to be nowhere near as bad as it has been portrayed in discussions up to now.
Even taking into account just the minimum offsetting figure produced in the MfE report of 33%, the farming industry in New Zealand has definitely been poorly served by government, in the whole discussion around GHG’s and farming’s part in New Zealand’s emission levels.
When we then take into account the differences between short lived GHG’s (Methane) & long lived GHG’s (Carbon Dioxide) and recognise that farming mainly produces methane, we can see even more clearly how poorly the farming industry has been treated by government through their total ignorance of the offsetting from on farm vegetation.
The idea that farming is the main cause of our GHG emissions and also that it will be the cure-all for those emissions is totally wrong. The current requirements on farming in relation to GHG emissions will only have the effect of endangering our country’s economy, our farmer’s economic survival and security of our food supply.
New Zealand is one of most environmentally sound producers of food on the planet but we are now being asked to reduce levels of production to lower our GHG emissions which will in effect have the end result of our emissions going down marginally but other nation’s emissions rising significantly to take up the deficit in production so created.
So on a global scale we are actually very likely to make the GHG situation worse as a result of trying to achieve arbitrary targets that have been set with a strictly NZ emissions viewpoint.
With the odd exception, New Zealand is now led by people who have never been hungry, never fought in a war, and never run a business.
The current government has granted an extra holiday, and five more days of sick leave pandering to the bottom 20% of society while imposing more and more cost on businesses. Meanwhile, new immigrants are fast taking over ownership of the best cash flow businesses, because they work hard, and avoid employment and overtime costs by working within the family.
How is New Zealand going to continue to compete on the world stage?
Andy Loader is Co-Chairman of the Primary Land Users Group.